you slender silver thing. green then blue. a tone of gray, polished.
you are cared for.
as colatura di alici
as burre cafe de paris as anchoiade
atop this egg
you are richness to this garden.
i’ll help care for your shallow, temperate, just salty waters.
A purse full of silver coins or purse full of little fish.
Anchovy, perhaps always anchovies, is an oily little fish, not beefy enough to satisfy a slightly sneering tummy, But a lick to satisfy the gourmand. Anyone who likes anchovy is a gourmand, in my book. Their tongue welcoming the tantalization this little fish brings.
When fresh, it’s an essence of what it will become packed and tinned under salt. Buy a bundle, fillet them and simply serve with halves of lemon. I can’t help but imagine; an hour of aperitivo, sheets of Carta di Musica (or, Pane Carasau, sheet music) stained with green olive oil and dusty flakes of pestle pressed fennel seed, chili and salt. The sun beaming a setting golden mist, and just like a candle blown out from the soft summer wind you’re whisked off to dinner.
A moment hopefully all of us, least have once. For some, a friendly routine out of convenience and perhaps stimulated by the milder nature of the fresh fish.
When handled with care, placed under salt, still full in body and bone, they become something stronger. A taste that lingers. A sharp and clear moment for your own bliss.
Preserved this way, anchovy may be considered even more a delicacy. It’s flavor dependent on the seasoned hands who cared for it. Known as alici to Italy, and anchois to France, both countries in the southern coastal towns, enjoy the little fish fresh and tinned in throngs. Being part of the land just as the people.
In Campania, during the summertime, fresh anchovies are placed in wooden barrels, salted then pressed. Then in the fall, the barrels are speared from the bottom and a longly awaited viscous and amber liquid secretes. An Italian fish sauce. It’s then bottled in glass and labeled Colatura di Alici. With a special place in the cabinet it’s to be dotted along with pasta and vegetables as northern Italians might balsamic.
Beurre Cafe de Paris made its name by a French chef in Geneva, but I would think it has been around for time before then. It is a compound butter of tinned anchovy and fresh herbs such as thyme and marjoram. Rolled into a log and served in rounds, maybe atop anything. I still want to toss it in pasta.
Anchoiade is a thick and hearty emulsion coming from Provence. Truly, an anchovy mayonnaise. Best set a little looser, a touch of water will achieve this. (Italians having a similar sauce, without eggs and the splash of liquor replaced with vinegar). Like a skier’s favorite trail wide and curling. High with newly fallen snow, I imagine endive, puntarelle, chicory or frisse gathered highly upon a wide plate. Then capped from a large silver spoon, a robust round of anchoiade. Curious and a bit dangerous, it’s first licked from the tips of the diners heavy fork. Next, gently and next, greedily tossed desiring every leaf to be strewn. The bitter green is the last remaining ingredient making the sauce perfectly harmonized and desirable. Make a jar full and lunch for a week! Only more needing a boule of bread and a row of eggs to softly poach.
6 whole anchovies, cleaned, filleted
palmful of thyme leaves
juice from ½ a lemon
150g extra virgin olive oil
dash of Cognac
salt + pepper
By hand using a pestle and mortar then a big bowl and a whisk:
Using a pestle and mortar, cream the anchovy fillets along with the thyme and a dash of the lemon juice. Transfer to a large bowl and add the egg yolk. Whisk until combined and smooth. Continue to whisk, quite vigorously now, as you slowly drizzle in the olive oil. When fluffy and spreadable it’s done. Season with more lemon juice, a dash of cognac, (a little trick I picked up at the restaurant, which may have been picked up from Alice Waters, who may have picked it up from Elizabeth David’s French Provincial Cooking. A fickle string to follow), lots of freshly ground pepper and some salt.
This can also all be done in a food processor: the same, but with a less achey arm, and gratitude for your machinery. But, never as triumphant as the one who beat willfully. Still, be be sure to slowly add the the oil as the processors blade quickly turn.
P.S. making an emulsion is marrying fat (olive oil) to a little protein (yolk). Quite temperamental! Be sure all ingredients are the same temperature, (just out of the fridge, or room) to ensure at least one variable is against forsaken mishap. As it does sometimes happen. And in which case; don’t fret. Pour the split sauce into a cup, add an egg yolk to the bowl, and slowly drizzle in your split sauce while whisking, the extra protein will help bring the sauce together again.